Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Victory in Cannon Beach and Other News
Cannon Beach Ends all View Grading  of Dunes!

The Dunes of North Cannon Beach. Photo Courtesy of ORCA
Cannon Beach City Council in October took the unprecedented move of banning all foredune grading for views. The vote was unanimous. The city's experiment with view grading began in 1997, when oceanfront homeowners at Breakers Point condominiums and the Presidential streets homes were allowed to grade, pursuant to a foredune management plan as required by state law. Chapman Point homeowners at the city's north end were never allowed to grade for views, thanks to a deed restriction.

Over the years the applications for view grading, particularly from Breakers Point, escalated in amount requested, became more frequent - and also more controversial. Finally, realizing it had out-of-date information, Cannon Beach courageously paid for the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to undertake a scientific assessment of sand movement in the entire littoral cell, which was completed in 2017.

Then the city embarked on changing its ordinances, after contracting with the Columbia River Estuary Task Force to produce a new Foredune Management Plan. But once the legislative hearings began before the Cannon Beach planning commission, it became obvious that the city was headed for a quagmire. The oceanfront homeowners tried many tactics to increase the allowed amounts of grading, add "flexibility" to the proposed ordinances, and insert the option of replanting with native plants, which hold the sand less well and would therefore result in smaller dunes - and send more blowing sand onto neighboring properties.

The planning commission recommended ending all foredune grading for views, but also provided detailed recommendations in case Council wanted to continue to allow it. City Council in turn held extensive hearings. It became increasingly clear that if view grading continued, it would not only divide the community, but also lead the city into endless controversy over permits, grading amounts, replanting strategies and lawsuits.  For example, during the hearings some  Chapman Point homeowners hired a major Portland law firm to press their case for view-grading, making it clear that legal action could result if the city did not accede.

Cannon Beach is one of the few urban areas on the coast that took a hard look at the benefits of sand dunes, and decided these outweighed the privilege of view grading for a small handful of oceanfront homeowners. Dunes provide protection against storms, sea level rise and king tides, and also create much of the beauty that is the basis of Cannon Beach's tourist economy. Oregon Coast Alliance salutes the Cannon Beach City Council for its courageous leadership and its foresighted decision to protect the dunes for the benefit of all residents  and visitors.
Denial of Gravel Mining on the Pistol River Appealed

Mouth of the Pistol River, Oregon. Courtesy of Michelle Kinsey Bruns/Wikimedia
Ron Adams, a landowner on the lower Pistol River, desired to mine gravel from a bar in a severely eroded stretch of  the river.  However, his application was so vague that the Curry County planning commission voted to deny it, making it clear that Adams had to provide basic information to decision-makers so they could weigh the facts and come to a sound legal decision.

Adams has appealed the denial to the Curry County Board of Commissioners, which will hold a hearing in mid-November. The date has not yet been set; for further information, call Becky Crockett, Planning Director, at (541) 247-3228.

Residents of the lower Pistol area are very concerned about the river. As early as  1998, in  a Forest Service watershed assessment, data showed that the extensive logging road network in the  upper  Pistol watershed produced a sediment rate 32 times the rate of undisturbed forest lands nearby; the timber-cutting itself increased sedimentation in the river nearly three times its normal rate. This is all the more damaging because the Pistol watershed receives 90 to 130 inches of rain a year. Meanwhile in the lower river, land use practices that encouraged  cutting riparian  forests in agricultural areas have increased severe channel and bank erosion.

In the shadow of the Adams gravel-mining proposal, area residents can hopefully begin collaborating on projects to help restore the river, and begin implementing better land use practices to protect the river all depend on and appreciate. The Pistol's chinook and steelhead runs, as well as the coho, would also benefit tremendously. Before intensive timber-cutting and grazing began, there were major salmon spawning regions in the lower Pistol.
Ulbricht Development in Wheeler:  Hearing Continued to October 30th

Wheeler waterfront. Courtesy City of Wheeler
The Ulbricht proposal in Wheeler for a major development consisting of a 44-room hotel and a large fish processing/retail building with employee housing, has been continued to a second hearing before the Wheeler planning commission on October 30th, at Wheeler City Hall at 7:00 pm.

The proposal remains highly controversial, nothing like Ulbricht's original concept of small cottages overlooking Nehalem Bay. But that idea did  not pencil  out, and this large commercial proposal has taken its place. In its 2011 Vision Plan, Wheeler residents made it clear they wish to preserve the small town character and  views of the Bay,  which this proposal would destroy. The Vision Plan, whose standards were adopted into the town's Comprehensive Plan in 2017,  remains  the principal criteria by which to judge this proposal. If properly applied, the Ulbricht development would clearly fail the test. Though city officials have been aggressively promoting the development, the town's residents have come out en masse in opposition. In addition, the application is very incomplete, featuring, among other  problems, a  13-year old geological hazard report for an entirely different development proposal in 2006. Testimony may be sent to city manager  Juliet Hyams . The applications and supporting documents are  here .
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